A bill that would streamline the process for approving new charter school applications secured passage in the North Carolina Senate on June 20. The measure now heads back to the House for a concurrence vote, after which it would go to Gov. Roy Cooper.

Under the current system, new public charters must first be authorized by the Charter Schools Advisory Board and then receive a majority vote from the State Board of Education. House Bill 618, Charter School Review Board, would create a new Charter School Review Board responsible for evaluating and approving new charters. Its decisions could be appealed to the full State Board of Education.

The new commission would have 11 voting members — four from the Senate, four from the House, and two from the State Board of Education. The final member would be the lieutenant governor.

The bill passed the House 75-42, with four Democrats voting in favor, in early May. On the Senate side, the vote was 30-18 with no Democrats voting in favor of the measure.

“This bill aligns the charter review board with similar structures that we find throughout our government,” said Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, referencing zoning boards that made decisions and then have a right of appeal to a city council or county commission.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said the bill opens the state to a lawsuit. “It changes who is responsible for making sure that all kids receive free public education,” Robinson said. “I think this is a bad move. If we want to have good education in this state, we ought to make sure that the State Board of Education that we’ve given final authority to ought to make sure that all children receive that education.”